In this long crooked summer
our sweetness has turned
thick as liquor
and rough as sap.
It takes a long drink
just to get a sip from you.
Takes a long hour
to learn the furrows
between your brows,
the whole histories
you leave handicapped in the silence
all the hometown and heroin and hollers you have been once,
all the radicals and radios and rain song you are now.
I invent a story of you and you invent a story of me.
You are cups and cups of weak coffee
and a strong breed of knuckles, a quick set of teeth.
I am witch carved out of cello bones,
a bowl of wild cherries for your wintering.
I think we are the sweltering of a hot September.
I think we are the cicadas
that crawl out from the topsoil
only once every seven years.
I think we are the coal-flame
burning for centuries underground.
When I first met you you were shivering,
it was frost in October,
you said something about capitalism and boxed the mountain
with invisible hands.
You did not bring enough blankets for the night.
You did not bring enough cigarettes for the day.
You had too much else to remember.
(we always have too, too much else to remember)
It is something that feels less like a heart
and more like a backbone.
It is something that feels less like a mountain
and more like a hollow,
like a lacking that has ached and ached
for something it cannot remember.
A Long Way
Hazard Kentucky offer fresh donuts
frosted in ash-trays
and gossip for the quilt makers,
let you finish your cigarette in the gas station
and sell soda pop cerulean blue
outside the sleeping apartment buildings,
under the heavy watch of holler dogs
and the neighborhood saints
(the ceramic ave maria beside a
sudden chorus of dandelions,
basketballs popping into dusk
beneath the doughy hands of teenagers)
Life shows up here in all the wrong places.
In the graffiti under the
("Before I die I want to...)
In the lamentations of the
In the daffodils growing
by the green river,
by the railroads that
carry nothing but the last cruel bits
of old dead earth.
the forsythia shrugs a yellow shoulder and
sharpens a wet tooth.
a hungry earth growls beneath the ramps
and the dandelions
and the tulips stiffen their tough lips,
whisper a mighty prayer
against the crimson wind.
spring always comes sharper
than we expect it,
she some slick flirt
she get cold just when you start to get soft,
just when you start to take off your clothes.
we must swallow mouthfuls of snow
before the soil cuts loose.
we must braid our hair into the briar patches,
bury our garlic at the root,
accept the sting with the sugar,
the honey with the rock
the long silence beneath the sweet talk.
the plane springs over the Shenandoah
like a cackling throat.
my hand unwinds
from the small of your neck
and braces itself.
sometimes love is just a knife
If I were kinder I would not
read such history
from the stiffening of your jawline,
the tightening of your thumbs against my shoulders,
the broadening of the mountains against
this hard geography that holds us